Studies / Reports: July 2009 Archives
By RADIO FREE ASIA
17 July 2009
Chinese authorities in Beijing have closed a legal research center and revoked the licenses of more than 50 attorneys in a bid to exert greater control over activists.
Some 20 officials from Beijing's Civil Affairs Bureau arrived early Friday at the Open Constitution Initiative [in Chinese, Gongmeng] rights organization's legal research center.
The officials questioned employees about their work and confiscated computers from the center's offices.
The legal center researches public welfare and withoffers legal aid, including recently representing the parents of children sickened by milk tainted by the industrial chemical melamine.
The center was shut down two days after Beijing's Tax Bureau fined the Open Constitution Initiative 1.4 million yuan (U.S. $200,000), claiming the group had not paid taxes, which the group denies.
Lawyers have arranged a hearing with the bureau and say that the full amount of taxes has been paid.
Tian Qizhuang, chief executive officer of the Open Constitution Initiative, said the group neither provided the tax bureau with fake bookkeeping nor intended to evade taxes.
"Their accusations suggest that there were funds that were not recorded and reported as income. The fact of the matter is the fund they were referring to just arrived, and we didn't even have time to do the bookkeeping."
"We never intended to hide any income records," Tian said.
Both the State Administration of Taxation and the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau refused to comment.
Lu Jun, a lawyer from another Beijing-based NGO, said authorities were making an example of the Open Constitution Initiative.
"We have discovered as we have been doing our job that the authorities neither trust nor like the NGOs, especially those that are independently operated," Lu said.
"The closure of the Open Constitution Initiative is purely a crackdown and retaliation with political motives. This is meant to send a warning message to similar independently run NGOs," he said.
The Beijing Justice Bureau also posted a list of 53 local lawyers on its Web site last week, saying it had revoked their licenses for failing assessments by their firms or failing to register with the bureau.
One of the listed lawyers, Jiang Tianyong, said in an interview that he was never notified about the cancellation in person and learned about it only through the bureau's public announcement.
"Since authorities have said that this was only the first group, there might be a second and a third group. Of course by releasing the names of the first group, the authorities might just want to issue a warning to other lawyers," Jiang said.
He recently defended a Tibetan charged with concealing weapons in an area of China where anti-government protests occurred.
"Also, this is the first time that authorities have made such a highprofile announcement of this kind," he said.
Another listed lawyer, Li Heping, said he was frustrated by the license revocation because the disbarred attorneys had been working hard to "safeguard the rule of law."
"They truly embraced the rule of law, and they truly had a belief in the rule of law," Li said.
"If these lawyers are sacked, the message from authorities could be interpreted only as saying that our legal system is bogus: 'Don't ever trust us, or this kind of outcome could be your destiny,'" he said.
An employee at the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau Law Enforcement Unit, reached for comment, said he wasn't authorized to comment.
Amnesty International issued a statement condemning the crackdown.
"There are only a tiny group of lawyers left in China who are brave enough to take the risk of representing victims of human rights violations," said Roseann Rife, the group's Asia-Pacific deputy director.
"A further crackdown against human rights lawyers is a major blow not only to these legal professionals but to the human rights defense movement in China."
Human Rights Watch called the closure of the Open Constitution Initiative and the disbarment of the 53 Beijing lawyers "a sharp intensification of official efforts to silence China's human rights defenders."
"The attack on OCI marks a new low in the Chinese government's campaign against human rights defenders," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
"This is precisely the kind of organization whose work the government should value, as it helps ease grievances and minimize unrest."
Original reporting by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service and by Ji Lisi and Li Ruoqing for RFA's Cantonese service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translation by Xiaoming Feng. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
By Dru Gladney for BBC World News
09 July 2009
The recent Urumqi and Lhasa riots have shattered the myth of a monolithic China, writes China and Uighur expert Professor Dru Gladney.
Foreigners and the Chinese themselves typically picture China's population as a vast homogeneous Han majority with a sprinkling of exotic minorities living along the country's borders.
This understates China's tremendous cultural, geographic, and linguistic diversity - in particular the important cultural differences within the Han population. More importantly, recent events suggest that China may well be increasingly insecure regarding not only these nationalities, but also its own national integration.
The unprecedented early departure of President Hu Jintao from the G8 meetings in Italy to attend to the ethnic problems in Xinjiang is an indication of the seriousness with which China regards this issue.
Across the country, China is seeing a resurgence of local ethnicity and culture, most notably among southerners such as the Cantonese and Hakka, who are now classified as Han.
For centuries, China has held together a vast multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nation despite alternating periods of political centralization and fragmentation. But cultural and linguistic cleavages could worsen in a China weakened by internal strife, an economic downturn, uneven growth, or a struggle over future political succession.
The initial brawl between workers in a Guangdong toy factory, which left at least two Uighur dead on 25 June, prompted the mass unrest in Xinjiang on 5 July, which ended with 156 dead, thousands injured, and 1500 arrested, with on-going violence spreading throughout the region.
The National Day celebrations scheduled for October 2009, seeks to highlight 60 years of the "harmonious" leadership of the Communist Party in China, and like the 2008 Olympics, its enormous success. The rioting threatens to de-rail these celebrations.
Officially, China is made up of 56 nationalities: one majority nationality, the Han, and 55 minority groups. The 2000 census revealed a total official minority population of nearly 104m, or approximately 9% of the total population.
The peoples identified as Han comprise 91% of the population from Beijing in the north to Canton in the south, and include the Hakka, Fujianese, Cantonese, and other groups. These Han are thought to be united by a common history, culture, and written language; differences in language, dress, diet, and customs are regarded as minor and superficial. An active state-sponsored programme assists these official minority cultures and promotes their economic development (with mixed results).
The recognition of minorities, however, also helped the Communists' long-term goal of forging a united Chinese nation by solidifying the recognition of the Han as a unified "majority". Emphasizing the difference between Han and minorities helped to de-emphasize the differences within the Han community.
The Communists incorporated the idea of Han unity into a Marxist ideology of progress, with the Han in the forefront of development and civilization. The more "backward" or "primitive" the minorities were, the more "advanced" and "civilized" the so-called Han seemed, and the greater the need for a unified national identity.
Minorities who do not support development policies are thought to be "backward" and anti-modern, holding themselves and the country back.
The supposedly homogenous Han speak eight mutually unintelligible languages. Even these sub-groups show marked linguistic and cultural diversity.
China's policy toward minorities involves official recognition, limited autonomy, and unofficial efforts at control. Although totalling only 9% of the population, they are concentrated in resource-rich areas spanning nearly 60% of the country's landmass and exceed 90% of the population in counties and villages along many border areas of Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and Yunnan.
Xinjiang occupies one-sixth of China's landmass, with Tibet the second-largest province.
Indeed, one might even say it has become popular to be "ethnic" in today's China. Mongolian hot pot, Muslim noodle, and Korean barbecue restaurants proliferate in every city, while minority clothing, artistic motifs, and cultural styles adorn Chinese bodies and private homes.
This rise of "ethnic chic" is in dramatic contrast to the anti-ethnic homogenizing policies of the late 1950s anti-Rightist period, the Cultural Revolution, the late-1980s "spiritual pollution" campaigns, and now the ethnic riots in the west.
While ethnic separatism on its own will never be a serious threat to a strong China, a China weakened by internal strife, inflation, uneven economic growth, or the struggle for political succession could become further divided along cultural and linguistic lines.
China's separatists, such as they are, could never mount such a co-ordinated attack as was seen on 11 September, 2001 in the United States, and China's more closed society lacks the openness that has allowed terrorists to move so freely in the West.
China's threats will most likely come from civil unrest, and perhaps internal ethnic unrest from within the so-called Han majority. We should recall that it was a southerner, born and educated abroad, who led the revolution that ended China's last dynasty.
Moreover, the Taiping Rebellion that nearly brought down the Qing dynasty also had its origins in the southern border region of Guangxi among so-called marginal Yao and Hakka peoples.
These events are being remembered as the generally well-hidden and overlooked "Others" within Chinese society begin to reassert their own identities, in addition to the official nationalities.
Dru Gladney is a China expert and president of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College in California.
By BBC World News
July 8, 2009
Ethnic violence has erupted in China's western province of Xinjiang, with scores of people being killed and hundreds injured.
Here are some of the most recent developments:
A small number of Uighurs - Muslim inhabitants of Xinjiang region - gather in the provincial capital, Urumqi, to protest.
Anger has been seeping through the Uighur community for weeks, following a brawl between Uighurs and ethnic Han Chinese in June, in Guangdong province 2,000 miles away (3,200km).
The Uighurs say they were demanding justice for their compatriots - two of whom died in the brawl.
"We are mourning our compatriots who were beaten to death in Guangdong," one protester tells the Associated Press.
But the small protest quickly spreads across the city - where Han Chinese account for three-quarters of the population.
The state-run news agency, Xinhua, says rioters are "attacking passers-by and setting fire to vehicles", adding that police have been sent to quell the disturbances.
But witnesses are soon describing hundreds - possibly thousands - of Uighurs rampaging through Urumqi, attacking Han Chinese, setting light to cars and smashing up shops.
In the late evening in China, the first reports of deaths emerge with Xinhua saying "three ordinary people of the Han ethnic group" were killed.
Uighur groups say hundreds of police began opening fire indiscriminately on protesters, and claim the death toll is much higher than reported.
Officials revise their figures of the number of dead, saying 140 people were killed in Sunday's violence.
Residents of Urumqi describe the city as in "lock-down" as Chinese security forces arrive to ensure there can be no further unrest.
Officials begin to enforce a communications blackout, with internet users complaining of no connection.
One mobile-phone operator, China Mobile, tells the Associated Press it has suspended its services in the region "to help keep the peace and prevent the incident from spreading further".
Meanwhile, officials apportion blame firmly on the shoulders of exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer.
"Rebiya had phone conversations with people in China on 5 July in order to incite," Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri said in a televised address.
In the afternoon, regional police officials speak of hundreds of people being arrested and dozens more "key suspects" being hunted.
And the unrest appears briefly to be spreading, with reports of protests in Kashgar.
But later reports suggest a small rally of about 200 Uighurs outside a Kashgar mosque is quickly dispersed by police, with no reports of casualties or fighting.
When asked about the violence, UN chief Ban Ki-moon urges governments to respect their people's right to protest.
"All the differences of opinion, whether domestic or international, must be resolved peacefully through dialogue," he says.
News of the violence enrages overseas Uighurs - groups of whom attack a Chinese embassy in the Netherlands with stones and burn a Chinese flag.
Xinhua reports say most of the dead and injured are Han Chinese, and officials insist the violence was premeditated, arranged through web forums.
The authorities feel sufficiently confident that they allow a group of foreign journalists into Urumqi for a supervised tour of the area where the violence took place.
Overnight officials again announce a higher death toll from Sunday's violence, with 156 people now confirmed to have died and more than 1,000 injured.
They also announce that 1,434 suspects have been detained in police operations since the violence began.
A group of overseas journalists on a supervised tour of the city then becomes the focus of a renewed protest - this time from a 200-strong group of Uighur women demanding that their men-folk be released.
In a public-relations disaster for the Chinese government, riot police move in to stop the protest in front of the watching photographers and journalists.
The BBC's Quentin Sommerville, who witnesses the protest, describes it as an extraordinary act of defiance in front of officers armed with rifles and tear gas.
Later, though, groups of Han Chinese armed with homemade weapons take to the streets - hundreds according to some reports, thousands according to others.
They seem bent on revenge for what they consider to be attacks on them by the Uighurs, and smash shops and stalls before confronting groups of Uighurs.
Riot police step in and quell the unrest, and officials announce a curfew that will run from 2100 until 0800.
As more troops are deployed to Urumqi, Chinese President Hu Jintao cuts short a visit to Italy, where he was due to attend a summit of world leaders, to deal with the crisis.
A BBC correspondent says security forces in full body armour and with semi-automatic weapons have drawn a line between the Han and Uighur communities, although areas have not been fully sealed off and people can still move about.
By Robert Mackey | THE NEW YORK TIMES
July 07, 2009
As my colleague Edward Wong reports from Urumqi, China, where rioting and ethnic clashes have led to more than 150 deaths, a government-organized tour for foreign and Chinese journalists went badly awry on Tuesday when hundreds of Uighur protesters made an unscheduled appearance:
A wailing crowd of women, joined later by scores of Uighur men, marched down a wide avenue Tuesday with raised fists and tearfully demanded that the police release Uighur men who they said had been seized from their homes after Sunday's violence. Some women waved the identification cards of men who had been detained.
As journalists watched, the demonstrators smashed the windshield of a police car and several police officers drew their pistols before the entire crowd was encircled by officers and paramilitary troops in riot gear.
Dan Chung and Tania Branigan of The Guardian were also on the media tour and they filed a video report and a slide show showing images of the Uighur protests witnessed by the foreign and Chinese press.
As if to underscore how very badly this attempt at media management by the Chinese government failed, it led to the image at the top of this post, of a lone woman standing before Chinese riot police, which evokes the iconic image of the Tiananmen Square protests, of a man confronting a row of Chinese tanks.
Similar shots of the woman in Urumqi today are featured in both The Guardian's video report and slide show.
In today's New York Times, Michael Wines reports that Chinese officials arranged the tour as part of a broad effort to manage media perceptions of the unrest. Apparently hoping to do more than just shut off the flow of unwelcome images of protests from appearing on the Web, as Iranian authorities did recently, China invited foreign journalists to take part in the official trip to Urumqi, the site of the unrest, "to know better about the riots." But China's ethnic minorities have a habit of not remaining placidly in the background during these sorts of state-managed photo-ops.
Image by David Gray / REUTERS
An elderly Uighur woman, leaning on a crutch, confronted riot police in Urumqi, China on Tuesday
By Simon Elegant | TIME Magazine in Partnership with CNN
Monday, July 06, 2009
Chinese authorities announced today that some 140 people had been killed and over 800 wounded in protests that roiled Urumqi, the capital of China's far western Xinjiang province, on Sunday. According to the official news agency Xinhua, Urumqi police chief Liu Yaohua told a press conference that the number of dead was still rising and that there had also been extensive damage to property.
The enormous loss of life marked a bloody milestone in Beijing's administration of the troubled zone, in which Muslim Uighurs make up the majority of the population. It also presages a severe tightening of the already vise-like grip the authorities maintain on the semiautonomous region, one that could be even harsher than the crackdown that followed the violent suppression of protests in the Tibetan capital Lhasa in March of 2008. Officials said that several hundred protesters had already been arrested and some 90 more were still being sought on Monday afternoon. "I fear for what is to come," said Nicholas Bequelin, a China researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch. "China has a very poor record of accountability when it comes to those arrested for protesting. In Tibet, for example, there are still hundreds unaccounted for by the government's own admission." (See pictures of the March 2008 riots in Tibet.)
Liu told the official news agency that rioters burned 261 motor vehicles and around 200 shops yesterday in violence that was, according to an earlier Xinhua report, "masterminded from overseas by the separatist World Uighur Congress (WUC) led by Rebiya Kadeer." Sections of the city populated by concentrations of ethnic Uighurs, who make up only around 10% of Urumqi's population, were reportedly under curfew Monday.
Alim Seytoff, a spokesman for the WUC, a Washington, D.C.-based Uighur exile group founded by Rebiya Kadeer, denied it had had any role organizing the protests. "It is shocking to see the extent of the lethal force the Chinese government used against peaceful, unarmed protesters," Alim said in a telephone interview. "This is the darkest day in recent Uighur history."
Alim said the demonstrations were a reaction to a June 26 incident at a factory in Guangdong province, when two Uighur workers were beaten to death by Han Chinese colleagues. "The mob in Guangdong beat and killed Uighurs with immunity," Alim says. "The security forces didn't arrest anyone and did absolutely nothing. The protesters were very angry and disappointed." Alim added that the WUC believed that more than two Uighurs may have died in the Guangdong incident.